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Is Jimmy Fallon sitting pretty?

With Conan O'Brien likely heading out the door at NBC and Jay Leno taking a beating in the media for getting his old job back, Jimmy Fallon may be the one person in position to come out of this whole mess smelling like a rose.

If -- or is it when -- O'Brien splits, Fallon becomes the heir apparent to "The Tonight Show." Yes, Jay Leno has shown he has staying power, but Fallon is only 35 and Leno is approaching 60. In other words, Fallon can be patient for a few years.

FALLON Fallon has a key backer inside NBC in Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of "Saturday Night Live" who also executive produces "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." Michaels, who nurtured O'Brien's late-night career, has not been throwing his weight behind the embattled talk show host, people within NBC say, and instead is focusing his efforts on pushing Fallon, who clearly will be in line to eventually succeed Leno.

That Michaels would distance himself from O'Brien seems surprising. However, you don't last as long as he has without knowing where to pick your battles. Also, Michaels is apparently miffed that he didn't get an executive producing credit on "The Tonight Show" when O'Brien took over hosting. A spokeswoman for Michaels declined to comment.

NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol has already made his feelings about O'Brien perfectly clear in today's New York Times when he eviscerated "The Tonight Show" host's  seven months on the job. Ebersol, who has never been a fan of Jay Leno either, is tight with Michaels and is also on board with the Fallon-is-the-future movement, people within the network say.  

While Fallon has big guns backing him, his numbers need work. Fallon trails CBS's "Late Late Show" in viewers and key demographics and is not doing as well as O'Brien was in the slot. This season, Fallon is averaging 1.4 million viewers. At this time last season, "Conan O'Brien" was averaging almost 2 million viewers. Fallon is trailing CBS's "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" by almost 550,000 viewers. However, in the coveted 18-49 demographic, Fallon is tied with Ferguson. Still, his numbers with that group are off 25% from where O'Brien was.

Of course,  a year ago, O'Brien had a much stronger lead-in to his show from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Jimmy Fallon. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Comments () | Archives (43)

Who's Jimmy Fallon?

i wouldn't know how to choose between fallon and conan but against leno, fallon can be sure to have my vote

It is ridiculous to give Jay Leno his old show back. There was a big hype about him leaving his show, and now he's getting it back? I am a huge Conan fan and I am upset by this decision. What is next for O'Brien? Will he have his own show. I hope so. I'll be watching that any time and any day, instead of Leno.

Lorne Michaels is a doofus. SNL has not been funny for a looong time. Maybe he should be retiring.
Jimmy Fallon, well he is somewha amusing. Let's face it. The old-times for NBC, ABC, CBS are fading fast. They have their noses so far up Obama's keister that they can't see the forest for the trees.

Of course, a year ago, "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" had a much stronger lead-in to his show from an hour of at least mildly entertaining programming and the news.

...if we are going to split hairs.

Funny how Joe Flint makes note that Conan had a much stronger lead-in to his show from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," than Jimmy Fallon but doesn't mention that Conan's "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" has a weaker lead-in from low rated local newscasts that have an even lower rating lead-in from "The Jay Leno Show" then when Jay Leno had the Tonight Show with a strong drama at 10:00PM. If Conan had a strong lead-in at 10:00 PM both the local affiliate news and Conan's tonight show would have better ratings as would "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." Jay Leno's poor ratings at 10:00PM killed everything that followed it including Conan and Fallon. Jay Leno is the problem not the solution.

In case you haven't noticed people who do Late Night don't get the Tonight Show, haven't you been paying attention? Do I need to add the word "Curse" for you media types to get it?

Jimmy Fallon is terrible. The only time i have ever managed to smile while watching his show is when The Roots are doing their thing. Conan is by far the funniest talk show host on NBC and i will no longer watch late night until he returns.

HA... Fallon stinks... he can't do stand up at all. All his viewers all people who left the TV on from watching Connan

What a train wreck!Time to fire the NBC execs.Both Leno and Fallon do bit's that are done by Letterman or were done by Johnny Carson.Fallon is a terrible interviewer.The situation is so bad I'm going to start my own late night talk show and start streaming on the internet!!!

Ebersol failed to take account the weak lead-in that Leno was giving Conan.

Frankly, this whole mess is really not worth the signal to noise ratio it has generated.

Neither Leno nor O'Brien can hold a candle to Johnny, and Leno is personna non grata here. Conan? Quirky but not terribly funny and a bit too immature for my tastes.

Five years ago when Leno announced his "retirement" he said that "no one other than Johnny Carson deserved to host the Tonight Show into their 60s." I guess Fallon would only have to wait until the end of April when Leno turns 60 because we know Leno would never go back on HIS word now would he??

I hope Fallon get's the time-slot...I'm trying to cut back on tv

Had you read "Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live" by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad, or "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live" by James A. Miller and Tom Shales, you would know that Dick Ebersol is not "tight" with Lorne Michaels. Their relationship has been contentious for decades.

Enough of this...Haiti's suffering is what is important. I will not watch Jay or Conan...they should grow up, including NBC, I am having a hard time just paying my utilities, I cannot feel bad for either one of these 2 guys.

It is apparent that the NBC execs are waging a public opinion battle to discredit Conan and save some of Leno's face. They need Leno looking like a bystander in this, even though everyone knows he weaseled his way into the Tonight Show in the 90s and is again weaseling back in now. The reason Leno won in the ratings before was because people thought he was a nice guy and now that his image is tarnished it will be hard for him to succeed again. Leno has already lost but the NBC execs probably cannot break his contract because of the monetary consequences (most likely greater than Conan's).
Conan got screwed and now NBC is trying to make it look like they were the victims and are doing everyone a favour.

Put Arsenio Hall in there against Letterman. He will trunce him; there must be some real change not move around. I think Jay is more mature and 'sensible'than Conan. I believe Conan should get Pee Wee show on Saturday mornings with the kids. He looks like Pee Wee and his antics and jokes are for the kids; his slip and fall, hair tricks, hand in pants, standing on the desk; he really thinks we are idiots, eh?

Wow....even the LA Times is funny today. "Fallon becomes the heir apparent to the Tonight Show" LOL.

Oh you guys at the Times, ya crack me up.

The only way Fallon hosts the Tonight Show, is if in the future, all the funny people are summarily deported to Turkmenistan, and the only humor left is that which can be found on an iPhone.

Put Arsenio Hall in there against Letterman. He will trunce him; there must be some real change not move around. I think Jay is more mature and 'sensible'than Conan. I believe Conan should get Pee Wee show on Saturday mornings with the kids. He looks like Pee Wee and his antics and jokes are for the kids; his slip and fall, hair tricks, hand in pants, standing on the desk; he really thinks we are idiots, eh?

Hmmm, everyone seems to think Conan's ratings were bad because of the weaker lead-in he got from Jay and the evening news.

Funny, no one seems to remember Conan's Tonight Show had been on for three months before Jay's show debuted and was already losing (badly) to Letterman.

...feelings aside, a little research on the matter would conclude (numbers-wise) NBC made the right to decision, choosing Jay over Conan.

Perhaps, if everyone rooting for Conan actually watched his show, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

I don't really care what's happening at NBC because none of those guys are particularly funny. The only late night guy worth my time is Craig Ferguson. He's easily the smartest, funniest, most inventive and well-read of the group. He's trying to break the talk-show mold using puppets, musical numbers, and the the ever-popular awkward pause. Who else would celebrate their 1,000th episode by NOT appearing as themselves in their own show and instead have one of his puppets playing host?

I also love anyone who can combine Thomas Aquinas and Shakespeare references with the ever popular fart joke/double entendre combo in their monologues. Ferguson is the best of all worlds.

I think Jimmy Fallon is the funniest of the bunch. My college-age daughter insisted I watch him- saying all her friends LOVED him. He is a refreshing change, and I would love to see him take over the 'Tonight Show' someday. Meantime, I hope Jay does come back. I always thought he was great, but rarely managed to catch him at 10. Conan always seemed like a pervy-creeper, with a strange sense of humor. I, too, changed the channel.

The only person with less talent than Mr. O'Brien is Mr. Fallon who has arrived at his position as host with no ability to speak---he mumbles all the time so that one can never understand what he says but which he uses to hide that he often has nothing to say. Of course only NBC would put people so lacking on TV. O'Brien can at least be pleasant but Mr. Fallon is just boorish. Leno is without doubt the best stand-up comic of both. And as for Letterman he just does not care anymore. On most nights he is worse than lackluster. Late night talk shows need a flush. They have become another example in our society of those who rise to the top not on talent but on who they know which is how all these people got their breaks. At least Leno and Letterman had years of hard work but what did O'Brien or Fallon ever do? Just like Obama and Wall Street. Never trust a person who gets everything they want out of life without struggle or hardship or failure. This is the lesson to take from all this. Life is too easy for some and too unfair for the rest of us. There is no shortage of individuals who have more talent than Mr. Fallon et.al.What they do not have is anyone giving them a chance.

Good point, Syon!!!

The EXECS at NBC are idiots ! When Carson left the show and was appealing to seniors, he new it was time to walk and leave with dignity. Leno was younger, took over with a fresher audience. Now his audience is fading ! Conan should be given his chance. He's funny witty and appeals to younger viewers ! Case closed ! A person is only hip so long as they age, just ask Wayne Newton !
As Leno takes over his old time slot at 11:30 he'll have less and less of an audience as time goes on ! My Grandmother now takes her pills at 9:00PM and is bed by 9:30PM !

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